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13 Jul 2023
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Recipes & Food

One of the best things about the Outer Banks is the chance to get your hands on some fresh, local seafood. And even better, when you stay in a vacation rental or "beach house," instead of a hotel, you get access to your own kitchen and/or grill where you can prepare your nautical delights just the way you like! Check out our available rentals and search for the amenities you need to make sure you get just the right home with all the things you need to enjoy your vacation! And read up on some of our tips and tricks below for cooking seafood and elevating your Outer Banks vacation experience, creating lasting family memories for years to come.

1. Start with Quality Seafood

The start of any great meal comes with quality ingredients. And when it comes to seafood, getting the freshest seafood you can right off the boat will make all the difference when it's time to start cooking. Obviously, your best bet is to get the fish right off the boat or catch your own. Check out our guide to fishing, especially on Hatteras Island, or book a local charter to help you get the haul of a lifetime. According to the FDA, it's important to purchase fish that is refrigerated or packed on a bed of ice under cover. Fish should smell fresh with clear eyes and have no discoloration or drying. Shrimp and shelfish should be firm and shiny without much of a scent beyond salt. Don't buy anything that smells too strong or is discolored, especially around the eyes. 

2. Cook with the Season

The availability of certain types of seafood, like everything else we eat, depends on the season. When deciding what kind of seafood to look for, consider what time of year it is. This ensures you're getting fresher seafood while also supporting local sustainable fishing practices. During the spring and summer, opt for Mahi Mahi, shrimp, softshell crabs (in the early months), hardshell Blue Crabs, Flounder, Grouper, Tuna, and Snapper (year round). 

3. Store the Seafood Properly Before & After

Proper storage before cooking is just as important as properly storing your cooked seafood to enjoy again later. Seafood needs to be put on ice or in the refrigerator or freezer soon after buying. Be sure it's wrapped tightly in plastic or foil and keep it frozen if you're planning to use it more than 2 days out. It's also important to consider separating your seafood to prevent bacteria from spreading. Don't put thawed or fresh seafood near other food and be sure to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds after handling. Leftovers need to be put away, wrapped, within 2 hours of cooking. Seafood can be kept in the refrigerator for a few days but it's important to maintain temperatures below 40 degrees and toss anything that's starting to smell off or show discoloration. 

4. Think About Seasonings & Pairings

Don't forget to think about how you're going to season your seafood or what you're going to pair it with. These choices can absolutely make or break your seafood experience. Adding herbs like dill, parsley, cilantro, or thyme can give a light and airy flavor to your seafood meal while citrus, ginger, garlic, and chili can add depth to uplift your fish or shellfish plate. When picking sides, consider vegetables that won't overwhelm the flavor of the seafood like salads or sautéed squash and asparagus. For wine, avoid deep reds as these wines will overpower the flavor of the seafood. Consider light, dry wines or sparkling wines to keep the dish pleasant and bright. For more suggestions and an in-depth look at different types of wine, check out The Spruce Eats' guide here.

5. Different Techniques to Cook Seafood

Explore different cooking techniques for different types of seafood as well as well as different flavors and dish themes. What's perfect for lunch on a sunny, summer day may not be the same thing you want for your next Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Consider the pros and cons of each method and plan ahead to make the most of your seafood culinary experience.


Grilling tends to embody what it means to cook seafood during an Outer Banks vacation. Whether you're using a gas grill or a charcoal grill, grilling seafood can add smoky flavor without a lot of extra mess. Marinating the seafood beforehand or with a brush while grilling can help enhance the flavors of the meat. Be sure to preheat your grill and lightly oil the grates or use tinfoil to avoid sticking. Cook seafood until the flesh is opaque and flakes easily, if you're cooking fish, or until the shrimp turns a pale pink/orange color.


Sautéing is great if you're looking for a quick cooking method that allows you to experiment with decadent sauces and different heats. Heat your skillet and add oil or butter to prevent sticking and enhace the flavor of the seafood. Avocado Oil, Coconut Oil, and Extra Virgin Olive Oil are great, heart-healthy butter alternatives that can add additional flavor profiles to your dish. Season your seafood prior to cooking and sear it one each side until the oil has formed a golden brown crust on the meat. Be sure to flip to avoid burning. Sautéing is great for shellfish like shrimp or scallops as well as delicate, tender fish that might not withstand the grill. Keep in mind that sautéing can leave a lingering seafood smell in the home when you're done cooking, so plan accordingly.

Steaming & Boiling

Steaming is great and probably one of the most popular ways to prepare seafood in the United States. Using a steamer basket, steam the seafood over simmering water until it's cooked through. This way of preparing seafood avoids extra oils and maintains the delicate texture and flavor of what you're cooking. Steaming shrimp and hearty fish is a great way to enjoy the flavors without the mess. Add herbs, citrus, or even wine to the water before boiling to infuse the cooking seafood with extra flavor. Steaming is also a great option for crabs and lobster. Taking this a step further, you can also simply boil your seafood all in a pot with sausage, corn, or other vegetables for a hearty meal that the whole family can enjoy together. Outer Banks Boil Company has lots of premade options to help make your next seafood boil easier than ever.


Last but not least, baking your seafood is a foolproof way to enjoy a delicious seafood meal while maintaining the integrity of the seafood and retaining moisture in your dish. Lining your baking dish with parchment paper of foil before cooking can add a crust to your seafood while also making cleanup much easier and preventing sticking during baking. Experiment with seasonings, marinades, and toppings such as vegetables and citrus fruits to uplift your bake. Look for the flesh to be opaque or a light pink, depending on the type of seafood you're cooking as cooking times will vary based on species and recipe.

Book Your Next Outer Banks Vacation Today!

Cooking with fresh seafood is definitely one of the best things about an Outer Banks vacation. With the variety of seafood options and cooking availability of staying in an Outer Banks vacation rental, as opposed to a hotel, you're able to unleash your creativity in the kitche and get ready to impress your family and friends with a delectable seafood feast.

Give our wonderful Guest Services Team a call today at (866) 884-0267 or take a look at our available rentals to get started planning your next historic adventure to the Outer Banks. And don't forget about our layaway plan, which makes booking your dream vacation easier than ever. So don't wait. We're booking Outer Banks vacation rentals year round and we're excited to help you create memories to last a lifetime. We're here to help make your OBX vacation fun, exciting, and hassle-free. Give us a call today! Be sure to provide accurate information and make any necessary payments. 

Explore our website and give us a call to help kick-start your unforgettable Outer Banks vacation today.  Be sure to follow us on FacebookInstagramYouTubePinterest, and TikTok to stay up to date on all of our specials, new & featured homes, and tips & tricks for making the most of your next Outer Banks vacation.

We’ll see you at the beach.


About the Author:  Lauren is an Outer Banks local, mom, trained historian, and travel enthusiast. When she isn’t writing for the Seaside Vacations Travel Blog, Lauren can usually be found with her nose in a book or cuddling with her cats.